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Dover Athletic manager Jake Leberl speaks glowingly of the impression Mike Sandmann has made since his club return ahead of National League South trip to Weymouth

Manager Jake Leberl has spoken glowingly of the positive impression Dover coach Mike Sandmann has made since his club return.

Leberl and Sandmann - in charge of Whites’ highly successful Academy - worked together when Leberl was then-boss Chris Kinnear’s assistant.

Dover coach and Academy manager Mike Sandmann. Picture: Richard Harvey/ Dover Athletic
Dover coach and Academy manager Mike Sandmann. Picture: Richard Harvey/ Dover Athletic

The pair have re-united in Dover’s National League South survival bid as part of their new-look management team, with Sandmann knowing plenty about a first-team squad which includes a plethora of youth-team products.

“Mike’s been absolutely brilliant,” said Leberl.

“Obviously, I knew Mike from before - but I didn’t know how good he was, if I’m honest. He’s been a breath of fresh air.

“He knows a lot of the boys that came through the Academy. We’ve settled in really quickly and I’m really happy with everything so far.”

Whites’ squad are pretty youthful, bar 34-year-old captain James Dunne.

Dover boss Jake Leberl. Picture: Tony Flashman
Dover boss Jake Leberl. Picture: Tony Flashman

Leberl believes their young players are in the right place to be given more opportunities in senior football - despite a goalless draw at home to Bath City last weekend seeing Dover drop to the foot of the table.

He said: “If I was a young player, this is the club I’d want to be at with Mike and me.

“We’re here to help these kids push on and teach them about men’s football - to understand roles and responsibilities. I think it’ll be a good place to be, moving forward.

“Obviously, this season, with where we’re at, [it will be hard]. A few back-to-back wins and the table can change - but that’s a long way off.

“All we’ve got is a point, a clean sheet and a start.”

Midfielder Iffy Allen – could return from injury at Weymouth this Saturday. Picture: Stuart Brock
Midfielder Iffy Allen – could return from injury at Weymouth this Saturday. Picture: Stuart Brock

Whites slipped to the bottom of the table as big-spending Havant & Waterlooville, who had sacked ex-Dartford boss Steve King, earned a third successive win through a 3-0 triumph over Taunton.

Leberl said: “The Havant situation is a bit of a joke with the players they have got and the budget they have got.

“They, obviously, weren't playing for the previous manager - for whatever reason.

“I expect Havant to just keep climbing and climbing [the table] because they have good, experienced, players.

“We just have got to worry about ourselves and pick up as many points as we can.”

Dover remain on just one league victory all season and are 10 points from safety.

“We do have to start picking up points - and wins - if we’re going to get out of this,” admitted Leberl. “It needs to be sooner rather than later. I’m fully aware of that.

“But the chairman (Jim Parmenter) hasn’t given me any pressure of ‘You have to get wins and we have to stay up’ - all I can do is keep building slowly but surely and see where it takes us.”

One of two debutants for Whites in their stalemate against Bath was goalkeeper David Aziaya, who joined on an initial one-month loan from Bromley.

It proved a mixed club bow for the 19-year-old, though, with his kicking clearly needing some work despite the clean sheet, earned alongside on-loan Watford defender Scott Holding.

Leberl joked: “I blame the chairman! He hasn’t put enough money into the pitch, has he? That’s the reason for that.

“Obviously, all young players need to work on all aspects of their game. David is going to need to work a bit on his kicking.

“But he’s an Academy keeper and no Academy keepers kick it, do they? They roll it out from the back and play like Manchester City. But I don’t believe you can play like that in this league and pick up points.

“There’s going to be times in games where we can play out from the back. But, first and foremost, we didn’t want to give sloppy goals away with tippy-tappy football around the back.”

Whites visit Weymouth, a side they’ve already lost twice at home to this term, on Saturday before successive games against high-fliers Aveley, starting on Boxing Day at Crabble.

It will be a 400-mile round trip to Dorset - but Leberl can see positives to take from the long journey as he aims to learn more about his players.

He suggested: “It might be a good thing.

“It could be an opportunity for me to talk to the boys individually because you don’t get a lot of time on the training field. I can sit on the coach and discuss a few things with them.

“It might work in our favour having a good away trip and a bus journey home, hopefully with something.”

Midfielder Iffy Allen (hamstring) and striker Dontai Stewart (knee) could come into contention for the Weymouth clash while Leberl also is open to bolstering his squad if he can.

He added: “Hopefully, Dontai and Iffy will be back.

“We’re always going to look to bring in better players if we can, as well, because we need points to stay in this league.”

Dover are on the lookout for a volunteer PA announcer. Email jointheteam@doverathletic.com or call 01304 822373.

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